Month: September 2014

Do It Anyway

I love country music? Do you? If so, keep reading.

(If not, keep reading anyway.)

(This really isn’t about country music)

There’s a Martina McBride song that I’d like to share with you. I’ve listened to it over and over recently. If you’ve never heard it (or even if you have), it’s worth five minutes of your day. I promise it’s not actually that country. (That disclaimer is for you, Mom.)

Sometimes, y’all, I just get tired. Do you? That’s how I’ve felt lately. My health isn’t great, and life just seems so busy. And the little things that need to be done over and over and over … the dishes, the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning … it just never seems to end. And last Sunday, I was wiped out. I didn’t feel like I had anything left to give.

But as I sat in church and listened to others share their thoughts and insights and testimonies, I realized something. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who have touched my life, spoken to my heart, inspired me to do better and be better and keep going … and will never know it.

Speakers at church and at conferences and at devotionals.

Professors in college, teachers in high school, even middle school teachers.

People I have come across socially and professionally who set an example of the kind of person I want to be.

Family, friends, kind strangers that I met once and will never see again.

So many people have blessed my life and might never know. But they were my angels.

We all fight silent battles, and we all have struggles deep down that no one else knows about. We all have days when we’re walking around with a plastic smile slapped on our face because we’re terrified that if we truly let someone know how we’re doing, our façade will crumble and we will collapse. Sometimes, we are absolutely desperate for someone to say something, do something, anything, to show that they care.

Be that someone.

You might not ever know the impact you have one someone else. Your act of kindness, your blessing bag, your plate of goodies, your donation, your hug, your thoughtful note. You might think that you’re wasting your time. You might feel a little bit silly. You might never realize that you were an answer to someone’s prayer.

Do it anyway.

“You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in that tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang. Sing it anyway. ”

Do It Anyway

Do some good today.

The “Just Because” Challenge

A huge thank you to those who have joined in our weekly service challenges! It has been so wonderful for me to hear from those of you who are looking for opportunities to reach out and make the world a better place.

The past few weeks we have focused on reaching out to strangers. But this week, we’re going to bring the service challenge home.

Has anyone ever given you a gift “just because”? Flowers, a card, a treat … whatever the gift is, when someone gives you something “just because”, it can totally transform your day. To know that someone loved you enough to go out of their way and do something kind for you is an amazing feeling!

Introducing this week’s challenge – the Just Because challenge!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I get so busy with day-to-day life that I miss precious opportunities to reach out to the people who are right in front of me. So for the next week, I’m going to focus on serving those who I see every day. I’m starting today!

Just Because

When I pick my kids up from school, I’m going to have a treat waiting for them in the car. Not a healthy snack, like I usually insist upon, but a cute bag of fruit snacks. I’ll explain to them that, just because I love them, I’ve brought them a special treat. Attached to that treat will be a paper heart.

Throughout the week, we will do random acts of kindness for one another. Each one will be anonymous, but when we do something kind for someone else, we will leave a little heart behind to let the recipient know that someone did something kind for them, just because.

There are a ton of different things you can do, but here are a few of the ideas I’m planning on sharing with my kids:

  • Making someone else’s bed
  • Cleaning up someone else’s room
  • Making a special treat
  • Drawing a picture and leaving it for someone to find
  • Earning money doing chores and buying a small gift for another person

Those are just a few ideas to start. As the week goes forward, I’ll share what we’ve come up with as a family.

Will you join us this week and make an effort to serve your family, just because? You can make paper hearts, you can leave notes, you can just do anonymous acts of kindness. You can assign everyone a buddy to do kind things for, you can reach out as a whole family and do something kind for a member of your extended family. You can reach out and give just because gifts to other people in your life, like friends or teachers … whatever your idea is, I’d love to hear it! Let’s spread lots of love this week, just because.

Blessing bag party

I hope you have given some thought to making a blessing bag this week! I decided to invite some friends over for a blessing bag party. We grabbed sample-sized things we all had lying around, brought something for a potluck lunch, and had a great time serving together! We were able to make around 30 blessing bags – enough for us all to put one in our vehicle, with plenty left over to give to the hospital.

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If you haven’t done something like this before, give it a try! It’s so easy to find little opportunities to serve, and it’s so wonderful to serve with friends!

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Clearance shopping at Walgreens

A few weeks ago, our weekly challenge was to start packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Several of you have told me (online or in person) that you’re planning on packing a shoebox this year, and I am SO thrilled! I “shoebox shop” all year, and it is such a joy.

Yesterday I was at Walgreens looking for items for blessing bags, and I stumbled across a great find – school supplies on clearance!

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All of this cost me a whopping $13.38. I am thrilled! I had been hoping to stock up on pencil cases but never found a great deal. And I am so excited about the balls – there are less shoeboxes packed for boys than for girls, so I am always on the lookout for things to add to boy shoeboxes.

(Note – different stores mark things down on different days. Your local stores might already be sold out, items might not be marked down yet, or you might find a whole treasure trove of clearance items. It’s not worth a lot of time and gas to drive out of your way to clearance shop. But if you’re nearby, pop into Walgreens and check it out – you might be pleasantly surprised!)

Most stores are clearancing out some of their school supplies right now to make room for their Halloween displays, so if you’re out and about, keep your eyes peeled!

Happy shoebox-ing!

Noticing

He wasn’t holding a sign.

Perhaps that’s what caught my attention.

In my area, it’s not uncommon to see someone standing by the side of the freeway holding a sign, asking for food or money. But this man wasn’t holding a sign. He wasn’t standing up and looking people in the eye. He was sitting on the ground with his head in his hands.

I had finished running my errands and I was on my way to pick my daughter up from school. I was on the opposite side of the intersection from this man with no way to get to him, and with my daughter waiting for me, I had no time to flip my car around. But I couldn’t help but watch him as I sat at the red light. Looking absolutely dejected, he was hunched over. I had never seen anyone look more desperately alone.

Suddenly his head popped up. He jumped up and headed for a truck. Although I couldn’t hear what happened, I’m guessing someone called to him, perhaps offering money. His face lit up a bit, his step turned hopeful …

And then the light turned green and the truck pulled away.

As he shuffled back to where he was sitting, looking absolutely broken, my heart spoke up. Help him.

My own light turned green. I headed to my daughter’s school and picked her up. I pulled out of the parking lot and had a decision to make: turn left towards home, or turn right and try to find that man?

It wasn’t much of a decision.

“Where are we going?” my kids asked.

“Well, guys, when I was driving a few minutes ago, I saw a man. He was sitting along by the side of the road, and he seemed like he needed help. Do you think we should go and try to find him?”

“YES!” “YES!”

It took me a (rather embarrassingly) long time to find him. I tried to cut through a neighborhood to hop onto the frontage road and ended up getting completely turned around. But the time spent driving through neighborhoods was precious. I talked to my children and we speculated about that man. They asked me hard questions: Why is he there? Does he have a house? Does he have a family? I answered as honestly as I could, and I tried to bring the focus not on how he came to be in that place, but he simply that he was in that place. And that maybe what he needed very most was just to know that someone noticed him.

Finally we worked our way to him. I pulled my car close … and the light turned green. Luckily, there were no cars behind me. I called him over. He looked at me like I was crazy and asked if I knew the light was green. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw that cars were coming. Having only a few seconds, I stammered, “I know, but I really wanted to give you this. I hope you have a good day.” The cars came up behind me, I handed him a blessing bag, and I drove away.

My kids were thrilled, full of the joy of service. “But Mom, what was in that bag?”

“Well, a few things. There was shampoo, soap, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. That way he can feel clean. There was some lotion in case his skin is dry – dry skin can hurt, so maybe it will help him feel better. And there are some quarters in there so he can buy a snack.”

“Or a house,” my three-year-old said calmly.

I started laughing.

Then I started crying.

How grateful I am for a child who believes, like I do, in the power of a few quarters.

How grateful I am for the beautiful innocence of this child, to believe that our few quarters would be enough to completely change this man’s world.

How I wish that our few quarters could have changed this man’s world.

But you know what? Perhaps my few quarters changed that man’s day.

Perhaps that man, who sat alone by the freeway, walked back to his spot on the ground feeling a little bit better about life. Maybe in a tiny way, I helped restore a little bit of his faith in humanity. Maybe the reason I felt so strongly impressed to help him was because he desperately needed to know that someone sees him. That he is not invisible.

Or maybe not.

Maybe I needed to stop not for him, but for us.

A few weeks later, my son and I were again driving to pick my daughter up from school. He was quiet, as he usually is in the car – he’s too busy hoping a big truck will drive by to waste time in idle chit chat. But suddenly …

“Mom! Look! That man! Does he need us?”

I looked out my window and saw a man sitting on the ground. He was waiting by the bus stop. He looked a bit tired, but certainly not dejected. He wasn’t asking for help – he was just waiting. I wouldn’t have even noticed him.

But my son did.

He noticed, and he asked, “Does he need us?”

If I had no other reason why, that would be reason enough for me to keep serving.

Because in this world that is so full of good, but also so full of need, there are opportunities all around us to help and to serve. No matter who we are or what position we are in, there is always, ALWAYS someone to help.

We just have to notice them.

Let’s learn from my son.

Let’s start noticing.

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The Blessing Bag Challenge

Well friends, it’s time for a new challenge! This is one of my very favorite ways to teach my children to serve. It’s time to make blessing bags!

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You might have seen or heard of these before. It’s a pretty simple idea: Take a Ziploc bag. Fill it with small toiletries. Give it to someone in need.

The first time I made blessing bags, I intended on keeping one in my car at all times and giving them to any homeless people I might see. I have done that, and it has led to some very special experiences. But I found that often when I saw people in need of help, I didn’t feel like I could safely get to them and give them a bag. I was left with a stack in my closet that weren’t getting used very fast. So here are a few different suggestions of ways you can bless others with these bags:

  • As mentioned, we’ve kept them in the car to hand out to homeless people that we might see asking for money.
  • We’ve donated them to a local shelter for homeless men. This program works to help men in our community get sober, get clean, and get working. I love what they do, and I love donating to them. I knew that they would make sure they got to people who truly needed help.
  • We’ve donated to our local women’s shelter. When most women arrive, they have almost no possessions. To have a bag of toiletries handed to you – it might make the day just a tiny bit more bearable.
  • We’ve taken bags to a local outreach program for homeless teenagers. They go out and work with kids on the street, and they love having these bags to hand out to the kids.
  • Most recently, we donated them to the hospital. Almost any ward would probably take them, but we brought ours to the area where the new moms recover from childbirth. Some women go into labor so suddenly, they don’t have time to pack a bag. Having the opportunity to clean up a little can make a huge difference!

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So what goes in a blessing bag? Well, think of your audience. Whenever I make them, I like to include soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. If it’s going to a woman, I like to add lotion or a sanitizer. Sometimes I’ll add a razor if it’s going to a man. A pair of socks, chapstick, hair bands, fingernail clippers … use your imagination! I also like to include a few quarters in the bags that I keep in my car – enough to give someone the dignity of going to a store or a vending machine and being able to choose a snack. (Y’all know how much I love quarters!)

If you have a few extra moments, you might want to put an encouraging note inside. This is a great activity for kids to help with!

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(I love 6-year-old handwriting, don’t you?)

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Would you like to donate them to an organization but don’t know where to go? Try google-ing “shelter” and your zip code. Shelters for families, women’s shelters, shelters for teenagers … I was amazed to see how much need there was in a 20 mile radius from my home! You can also bring them to your local hospital. If you’d like, you can call ahead and ask to speak to a volunteer coordinator – he or she will likely be very happy to tell you where your donation would be most needed.

If you’d like to assemble a few blessing bags but you’re on a tight budget, here are a few tips:

  • Ask your friends for donations. Many people, particularly those who travel frequently, have a stash of sample-sized items that they might be willing to share.
  • Check out clearance racks. I was at Walgreens this week and found tons of travel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles marked down to 24 cents each. I’ve also found travel-sized toothpaste marked down to 75% off at CVS. When Bath and Body works has its semi-annual sale, I bring a coupon and hit up the clearance bins.
  • Reach out to local businesses. Ask your dentist for some sample-sized toothpaste. Contact a local hotel and see if they’d be willing to sell you some travel-sized toiletries at cost. Most people would love to help with projects like this – by asking others for support, you’re giving them the opportunity to serve with you.
  • Host a Blessing Bag Packing Party. I did this once, and it was so fun! Everyone brought whatever small toiletry items they had at home. I went to Target and used a Shopkick-earned gift card to buy a bunch of travel toothbrushes. (Remember, unless you’re planning on using a gallon-sized Ziploc, you need to get a toothbrush that folds in half. They’re usually around $1 in the travel sections of most stores, or you can find them at most dollar stores.) We were able to make enough for each of us to keep in our car, and we had a bunch left over to donate to a local shelter.

So that’s it! There are a lot of tips here, but it’s a pretty simple challenge. Who’s in??

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September 11th Memorial Museum

A week ago today, as I was writing about September 11th and New York City and thanking our firemen, I had absolutely no idea that my husband was planning a surprise.

For months, he and a dear friend had been keeping a secret from their wives. And last Thursday, the four of us headed out for a date night – and went to the airport. They’d arranged childcare, packed our bags, bought tickets …

I know. AMAZING!

Now I’m going to be honest – flying to NYC on September 11th was a tiny bit nervewracking. But I am so grateful that we went exactly when we did. We arrived late that night, but we got up the next morning and headed to the World Trade Center memorial. And y’all … it’s just beautiful. I wish you could have been there with me to see it. But I’m going to do my best to paint a picture for you.

As I visited ground zero, many different emotions rushed over me. Grief. Pride. Shock. Horror. Helplessness. Again and again, helplessness. Even now, thirteen years later, I remember the way so many of us felt that day – desperate to do something. And as I looked at faces and heard final phone calls and read stories, I realized that there is something I can do.

I can remember.

Will you remember with me?

Children's painting

On that tragic day, some lives were lost instantly. Some were lost within seconds or minutes or hours. And some people had a decision to make.

For those trapped in the towers, particularly those above where the plane crashed, death was eminent. The heat and the stifling smoke were quickly overtaking them. Desperate for air, they broke windows – and the oxygen fueled the flames. Instantly the inferno grew even more unbearable. Very quickly they realized that their choice was not just to live or die. They were dying. They just had the choice in how to die.

Given that choice, many decided to do the unthinkable. They chose to fall through the dark clouds of smoke.

That day, there was fire. There was horror and death and hell.

Today, there is water.

Memorial

It’s quiet. It’s calm. It’s a place where people step carefully and speak quietly. It’s a place for quiet reflection and meditation. It’s a place for remembering.

To those who stepped off of the edge that day …. We remember you.

Inside the memorial museum were countless exhibits. In the nearly four hours I spent there, I didn’t see everything. But there were a few memories of that visit that I’d like to share with you.

Inside of one room, there was a photograph of every person who perished in the 9/11 attack. (I say “every”, but there were actually a few exceptions. There were a few people of whom, even 13 years later, no photo has ever been found. People that, perhaps, had no one left to remember them.)

To those whose photos I saw, and perhaps especially to those who had no one to share a photo of them … We remember you.

There were interactive displays that featured these pictures. You could scroll through, click on a picture, and read a story. And oh, did I read. Story after story after story.

The story of a three-year-old boy who, like my own three-year-old boy, loved Legos.

The story of the man who loved, more than anything, serving those who were in the greatest need.

The story of a volunteer firefighter who, as a teenager, once held up traffic because a mother goose had been run over by a car and he had to get her babies to safety. Even as a young man, he had the instinct to rescue and to save. On 9/11, after the first tower was struck, he was one of the firemen called to help rescue. When traffic was so congested that his truck couldn’t get any closer, he headed on foot to the first tower.

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We remember you.

As I stood, fighting tears, I became aware of a couple next to me that was viewing the same profile again and again. I hesitated, but seeing that they didn’t seem to be having a private conversation, I asked, “Excuse me, but I noticed that you’ve been looking at this man’s profile. May I ask if you knew him?”

“Yes. He was my wife’s brother.”

Looking into that woman’s eyes, there were just no words. I hugged her, and together we looked at the picture of her brother. She thanked me and moved on while I stayed behind to read his story. I wrote his name down so I could come home and learn about him. Because that was the moment the enormity of the loss hit me. Each face on the wall was a person who had hopes and dreams and struggles and fears and plans. They were just like me, and they were just like you.

We remember you, Charles Karczewski.

I listened to answering machine recordings of that day, mostly of desperate friends and family members who were hoping and praying that a loved one would pick up the phone. And one message in particular haunted me.

“A plane crashed into World Trade Center 1. We’re fine. We’re in World Trade Center 2.”

Hearing his voice, his last message to his mother … Bradley James Fetchet, we remember you.

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The museum was full of remembrances. There was a massive quilt, paying tribute to each and every victim of that day.

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There were exhibits made by children, expressing in their own way the shock, horror, and desire to do something that we all felt.

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There was this stunning exhibit, forged in iron from some of the remnants of the towers.

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There were huge crowds of people speaking in whispers, wiping away tears.

And again, I felt helpless. But as I looked at the people around me, as we remembered together, as we thought of the victims and as we honored the heroes, I felt peace and comfort come into my heart. Because with all of my heart, I love my country. I honor those who gave their lives that day, and as long as I live, I will teach my children the stories of ordinary people who became extraordinary heroes on September 11th, 2001.

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As long as I live, I will remember.

Let’s remember the hope.

Freedom tower

Let’s remember the heroes.

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It Makes A Difference

Today I have the opportunity to share with you a guest post written by my husband. Two years, ago, we made the decision to sponsor children through Compassion International. After much thought and prayer, we selected two boys who live in Colombia. My husband’s company has an office there, and I was hoping that someday he might have the opportunity to meet them. Two weeks ago, he did. He came home with stories that broke my heart and healed it, all at the same time. There are countless things I want to share with you, and I will at another time. But for today, here is Matt’s story.

As I thought of the 17-year-old boy, I cried. I cried tears of sadness for his circumstances, and tears of joy for his ability to rise above them.  As I thought of the 7-year-old’s mother embracing me and expressing heartfelt gratitude on behalf of her family, I felt a wave of emotion.  These boys and their families were now real.  A small act of compassion on the part of my family was making a difference and bringing them hope.

Two years ago my wife encouraged our family to sponsor a child through Compassion International. We chose two boys in Colombia, one a teenager and the other a young child.  I’ll admit, though, that my support of those children was largely support of my wife.  It wasn’t personal for me.  I hadn’t felt a personal connection to them and their families.

Last week, though, I traveled to Colombia for work. And at my wife’s urging, I arranged to visit the two boys, John and Jhonathan.

I flew to a city called Cali. John (age 17)  lives in a neighborhood just outside of Cali and Jhonatan (age 7) lives in mid-sized port city two hours away.  Both live in difficult circumstances.  John’s neighborhood is plagued by violence, gang activity and drugs.  He’s watched as many of his friends and family have fallen victim to those scourges.  At 13 he was beaten nearly to death by a gang, simply for wearing the wrong color soccer jersey.

Jhonatan lives in city that’s so violent that most Colombians won’t travel there. The city is run by drug traffickers, who battle over control of the port and its drug export channel.  Murders, kidnappings and disappearances are a common phenomenon.

Meeting Jhonatan

But despite their challenging circumstances, these boys have something else: hope. They’re happy.  They have faith in God and can see a way out of poverty and out of a life of insecurity and violence.  These boys are part of Compassion International’s child sponsorship program.  Through the efforts of Compassion and local churches, these boys and their families are given the support to make sure their spiritual, physical, emotional and mental needs are met and are climbing a ladder that will enable them to escape poverty.

With Compassion’s support, John recently completed high school. He’s now enrolled in a nursing program and wants to work in the emergency department of a hospital.  John has confidence that he can become more than his circumstances and surroundings, and is on a path to get there.  I was touched by his confidence, strength of character, and faith in God.

The Compassion sponsorship program changed John’s life. It saved his life.  I remember when we chose to sponsor John two years ago.  Compassion shows you how long a child has been waiting for sponsorship and, as I recall, John had been waiting for over a year.  I remember that something about his profile touched me—the one time sponsorship had felt personal for me over the last two years—and I felt a need to try and help this young man who was in such a pivotal period of his life.  During our visit last week, John told me about when he learned he had been sponsored.  He had almost given up, thinking no one would ever choose him.  But our small act gave him hope.  He felt that someone cared about him, that God cared about him and had answered his prayer.

Meeting John

Jhonatan traveled from his home to Cali by bus with his mother. We met at a mall and had lunch together.  At Jhonatan’s choosing, I bought them lunch at a fast food chicken restaurant, similar to a KFC.  To me, there was nothing special about the meal, but to Jhonatan’s mom, the “abundance” of food was overwhelming.  It took some urging just to get her to order the meal, as she clearly thought it was too big and too much.  She was so grateful for what to me was a cheap and unimpressive meal.  But to her it was food and it was precious.  And being the loving and self-sacrificing mother that she is, rather than finishing her meal, she packaged up a large portion of it to take home to the rest of her family.

John, Jhonatan and Jhonatan’s mother are the faces of poverty. It makes me sad to understand their circumstances and challenges, and incredibly grateful for how blessed my family is.  But it also inspires me.  It inspires me that these same people who deal with extreme violence and abject poverty also radiate hope, optimism and happiness.  They have faith in God and see a way out of their circumstances.  They know that life has greater things in store for them.  And playing a role in giving them that hope is so simple.  But it makes a difference.  It changes lives.  Now it’s personal.

Meeting the boys

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

 

September 11th – Thank a Fireman challenge

“But Mom – why did they crash those planes if they knew they were going to die?” my six-year-old asked.

How could I possibly answer?

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum with my family. I tried to turn it into an interesting and educational experience for my young children by explaining exhibits and allowing them to interact wherever they could. As we neared a large September 11th exhibit, I stopped them, knelt down, and began to prepare them for what they were about to see. Every September 11th, I talk to them a bit about what the day means to me, but it had been 11 months since we’d had that conversation, and at ages 3 and 6, I knew they’d completely forgotten.

“A lot of years ago, when I was still in high school, there was a very sad day in our country. Some very bad men got onto airplanes and made them crash into tall buildings. There were a lot of workers there, and a lot of people died.” Already the tears were beginning to come, but I tried to explain as matter-of-factly as I could.

“But Mom – why did they crash those planes if they knew they were going to die?” my six-year-old asked.

How could I possibly answer?

“Well, sweetie,” I began slowly, “Do you know how in our family, we don’t use the word ‘hate’?”

Two little heads nodded.

“It’s because hate is such a sad, sad word. It’s the very opposite of love. When we love someone, we do everything we can to take care of them and to make their lives better and happier. When we hate someone, we do whatever they can do to hurt them and to make their lives worse and sadder. And these men had so much hate in their hearts, they chose to kill other people, even though it meant they would die.

“But guys, that’s not what I want you to remember about that day. I want you to remember that there were some very, very brave people that day. I want you to remember them.” I took a deep breath and began telling them stories.

I told them about the first responders who ran up burning staircases instead of down.

I told them about the people all over the country who rallied together, desperate to do something, anything, to help.

And I told them the story of Todd Beamer, a daddy much like their own. A father of two small boys (with a daughter on the way), he often boarded airplanes for business trips. That fateful morning, he boarded United Flight 93 for a routine trip to San Francisco – and soon found himself trapped in a nightmare. A phone call to an airphone supervisor, Lisa Jefferson, informed him that there were a series of attacks occurring, and that his plane was likely headed to the nation’s capitol. Todd counseled with Lisa, and he and a few of the other men decided they only had one option – take over the cockpit. After reciting the Lord’s Prayer with her and asking her to pass his love on to his family, he put the phone down. He rallied the other passengers, and they charged on his command. The last thing Lisa heard him say was the phrase that he had used countless times with his sons to let them know that it was time to take action.

Let’s roll.

At this point, there was no stopping my tears.

“Do you guys think that he wanted to die that day, or that he wanted to come home and see his wife and his kids?”

“Come home.” “Come home.”

“I think so, too. I think if he had one more wish in his life, it would have been to make it home safely to his family. But he knew that that wasn’t going to happen. So he made a very, very brave choice. He chose to charge the front of the airplane with some other very brave people. They took it over, and the plane crashed. And instead of it hitting a big building with lots and lots of people, it crashed in a big field. They made the choice to be brave, and they saved a lot of people’s lives.”

“Mommy, are you crying because you’re sad?”

“Yup, buddy. I’m crying because I’m sad. I get sad whenever I think of that terrible day. But you know what? I’m also crying because I’m happy. I am so happy to live in a country that is full of people who are so good and so brave. You know what? If your daddy had been on that plane, he would have been brave like that. I want you guys to remember that day. It’s okay if you get a little sad. I do, too. But I want you to remember the heroes of that day.”

And so on September 11th, we will proudly hang out flag outside. We will remember.

We won’t think about the men who hijacked the planes that day. I don’t know their names, and I don’t care to.

But we will remember Todd Beamer. We will remember Mark Bingham and Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick.

We will remember the countless people who ran up burning staircases instead of down.

We will remember the firemen.

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And for this week’s service challenge, we honored our local heroes. We told our firemen that we are grateful for their training, and their service, and their sacrifice. Because if my car crashed, or my child stopped breathing, or my house was on fire, my firemen are only a mile away. They would be the first ones to help.

If I were trapped on the second story of a building, they would rush up the burning staircase to save me.

They are our everyday heroes.

We put together a basket of goodies for them to keep on hand, particularly for when they arrive back from an emergency situation tired and hungry.

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My children colored pictures, thanking them for their service.

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We visited them to personally tell them thank you. And let me tell you what – they are awesome. I’m SO glad we went. They were kind, they were friendly, and they were very appreciative. They gave my kids a tour and let them hop into the fire truck. It’s a service project my family will remember.

This week, I challenge you to do the same. Visit your local fire station. Write a note or a card or have your children color a picture. Bring goodies, bring water bottles, or just show up with your sincere thanks. Shake their hands. Introduce yourself, and tell them how very grateful you are for their service and their sacrifice. Tell them that their heroism and bravery does not go unnoticed.

Thank a fireman.

Do what the heroes of September 11th would do – cherish your loved ones.

And … remember.

The Shoebox Challenge winner

And the winner of the Shoebox Challenge giveaway is …Annaliese Lemmon!

Thank you SO much to all those who participated in this week’s challenge. I’ve been touched to read your comments here and on Facebook. If you’re interested in packing a shoebox, no rush – you have two whole months to get it done! But I’d recommend hitting up the school supply clearance deals ASAP. You can also follow Operation Christmas Child on Facebook to hear lots of sweet stories, and ClipWithPurpose.com is a fabulous resource for shoebox shopping on a budget. And please know you can reach out to me ANY time! If I don’t have an answer, I’ll try to find it for you!

Stay tuned – our next challenge is coming soon.

 

 

Shoebox Challenge